Ratatouille Salad

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 30 minutes

Eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, and tomatoes are a familiar Mediterranean combination, especially in summer. Too often, however, they’re overcooked and mushy. Enter the ratatouille salad, where the vegetables remain distinct and a hint of acidity keeps things fresh tasting, even though the ingredients are cooked.

Eat this alone or on a bed of greens. For a heartier salad, toss in cooked rice, white beans, or the pasta of your choice and drizzle with a little more olive oil. A grating of Parmesan or ricotta salata is a welcome addition.

1 medium or 2 small eggplants (about 8 ounces)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 medium tomato, cored and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup minced parsley leaves for garnish

01 Trim the eggplant and cut it into 1-inch cubes. (If the eggplant is large, soft, or especially seedy, sprinkle the cubes with salt, put them in a colander, and let them sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably 60. Rinse, drain, and pat dry.)

02 Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

03 Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan and add the zucchini. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook and stir for another minute or two, until soft. Add the tomato and thyme and cook for another minute, until the tomato just starts to wilt and release its juice. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

04 Put the eggplant in a salad bowl and add the vegetables and dressing from the pan. Stir to combine. Cool to room temperature, taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish, and serve. (Or prepare the salad to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days; garnish just before serving either cold or at room temperature.)

Variation

Eggplant and Zucchini Salad with Cinnamon. Just slightly exotic: Instead of the garlic, use 1 tablespoon minced fresh chile (jalapeГ±o, Thai, serrano, or habanero), or to taste. Instead of the thyme, use 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Garnish with minced fresh mint leaves instead of the parsley.